As much as I loathe the category or genre label of “New Adult”, I’m happy that people are finally writing books about the 18-26 age group, and that publishers are printing them – though it did of course take readers to show publishers that they wanted to read the stories by making so many self-published NA books so popular. I can’t really blame publishers for not wanting to take risks these days, and yet they also have a tendency to make decisions about what people want to read without really looking into it, or so it seems sometimes (I read an article somewhere that said how publishers didn’t want to publish fiction about this age group because they believed no one wanted to read it). Also, publishers have had a lot of experience at how to create hype, so there’s really no excuse except reluctance and, perhaps, snobbery.
I like what NA author JA Redmerski says about writing in this genre:
I enjoy writing New Adult fiction because the genre fits perfectly between innocence and responsibility. NA allows me to write about people who have not yet conformed fully to adulthood, who are setting out to find their place in the world and learning how to be independent, but still having fun on levels that many adults have grown out of. NA is a fantastic outlet for self-discovery, loss of innocence, stories about the college [uni] years and all of the ‘firsts’: jobs, apartments, serious relationships. After all, in real life none of us go from 18 to 27 overnight and it’s about time there is a place for that in-between, in the literary world.
You can find out more about the genre at the NA Alley blog, though all the posturing aside I think it’s fairly obvious what New Adult is: so far it’s been a mostly angst-riddled romance sub-genre, though the better quality ones are less self-indulgent and focused on a happy ending to make them “fiction” rather than “romance”. It’s rather ridiculous, when you think about it, that we even need this new label, but it serves to bridge the gap between adolescents and adults and let’s be frank, people seem to find a great deal in comfort in knowing, before they read, who the target audience is. It’s another way of knowing whether it’s a book for you. Genre labels also give us an idea of what kind of story it will be; after that, it’s up to the writer to decide how much angst, romance, self-indulgent melodrama or hard-hitting issues to throw in there. But maybe we’re all a bit sentimental about those years in our lives, and maybe the younger readers who are reading these books find them a good bridge into adult fiction or the world they’ll soon inhabit, who knows? Personally, I never had very much angst so a lot of the time it just seems over-the-top, but still entertaining.
There have been a few adult novels written about this age group (such as I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe, The Secret History by Donna Tartt or Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot – and don’t forget Fifty Shades of Grey!), but nothing that spawns it’s own genre or specific audience for marketing purposes. Until now (well, since St Martin Griffin’s 2009 writing contest, that is). Also, the “adult” fiction about this age group isn’t angst-filled romance and isn’t written with a younger audience in mind, making them different kinds of stories with a different kind of feel, or vibe. So far, most of the books available are romance and contain a great deal of angst, but as more authors flex their wings in the genre, we’re bound to see a broader spectrum of stories.
So what’s available out there, right now? Here’re some titles that have been out for a few years to look into:
“Carly has dropped out of uni to spend her days surfing and her nights working as a cook in a Manly café. Surfing is the one thing she loves doing … and the only thing that helps her stop thinking about what happened two years ago at schoolies week.
And then Carly meets Ryan, a local at the break, fresh out of jail. When Ryan learns the truth, Carly has to decide. Will she let the past bury her? Or can she let go of her anger and shame, and find the courage to be happy?”
“It’s been three years since the devastating accident … three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard’s rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia’s home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future – and each other.
Told from Adam’s point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.”
“When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.
Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night – but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.
When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.”
“‘Miss Amelia Hayes, welcome to The Land of Dreams. I am the staff trainer. I will call you grasshopper and you will call me sensei and I will give you the good oil. Right? And just so you know, I’m open to all kinds of bribery.’
From the moment 15-year-old Amelia begins work on the checkout at Woolworths she is sunk, gone, lost…head-over-heels in love with Chris. Chris is the funny, charming, man-about-Woolies, but he’s 21, and the 6-year difference in their ages may as well be 100. Chris and Amelia talk about everything from Second Wave Feminism to Great Expectations and Alien but will he ever look at her in the way she wants him to? And if he does, will it be everything she hopes?”
“Holly Yarkov has a boyfriend who is a gift from the universe. She has a job that fulfils her even as it wears her down. She has a core group of friends from high school. And she has a layer of steel around her heart that is beginning to tarnish. Just as she is reaching for a future she can’t quite see, Holly is borne back into the past by memories of her beloved father, and of the boy-who-might-have-been…
Grief and longing run like veins of quicksilver through this beautiful novel, at once gloriously funny and achingly sad.”
“For almost two years now, Kiera’s boyfriend, Denny, has been everything she’s ever wanted: loving, tender and endlessly devoted to her. When they head off to a new city to start their lives together, Denny at his dream job and Kiera at a top-notch university, everything seems perfect. Then an unforeseen obligation forces the happy couple apart.
Feeling lonely, confused, and in need of comfort, Kiera turns to an unexpected source – a local rock star named Kellan Kyle. At first, he’s purely a friend that she can lean on, but as her loneliness grows, so does their relationship. And then one night everything changes…and none of them will ever be the same.”
“Twenty-year-old Camryn Bennett thought she knew exactly where her life was going. But after a wild night at the hottest club in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, she shocks everyone – including herself – when she decides to leave the only life she’s ever known and set out on her own. Grabbing her purse and her cell phone, Camryn boards a Greyhound bus ready to find herself. Instead, she finds Andrew Parrish.
Sexy and exciting, Andrew lives life like there is no tomorrow. He persuades Camryn to do things she never thought she would and shows her how to give in to her deepest, most forbidden desires. Soon he becomes the center of her daring new life, pulling love and lust and emotion out of her in ways she never imagined possible. But there is more to Andrew than Camryn realizes. Will his secret push them inseparably together – or destroy them forever?”
“School is over, not just for the year, but forever. Tiff and Kayla are free, which is what they’ve always wanted, but now summer is nearly at an end and that means life decisions. Tiff is hoping her job at the local paper will lead to something more, but ‘The Shark’soon puts her straight on what it takes to become a hard-nosed reporter like him. At home, Reggie — the only grandad she’s ever known — has quit smoking and diagnosed himself as a cactus, and then Kayla hits her with some big news.
And into all this stumbles Davey, who plays rugby but quotes Truman Capote, and is the first boy who has ever really wanted to know her. Tiff is smart with words and rarely does tears, but in one short week she discovers that words don’t always get you there; they don’t let you say all the stuff from deep in your heart.”
“Award-winning author Melina Marchetta reopens the story of the group of friends from her acclaimed novel Saving Francesca – but five years have passed, and now it’s Thomas Mackee who needs saving. After his favorite uncle was blown to bits on his way to work in a foreign city, Tom watched his family implode. He quit school and turned his back on his music and everyone that mattered, including the girl he can’t forget.
Shooting for oblivion, he’s hit rock bottom, forced to live with his single, pregnant aunt, work at the Union pub with his former friends, and reckon with his grieving, alcoholic father. Tom’s in no shape to mend what’s broken. But what if no one else is either? An unflinching look at family, forgiveness, and the fierce inner workings of love and friendship, The Piper’s Son redefines what it means to go home again.”
“Following the unexpected death of her father, eighteen-year-old Layken becomes the rock for both her mother and younger brother. She appears resilient and tenacious, but inside, she’s losing hope. Then she meets her new neighbor Will, a handsome twenty-one-year-old whose mere presence leaves her flustered and whose passion for poetry slams thrills her.
Not long after a heart-stopping first date during which each recognizes something profound and familiar in the other, they are slammed to the core when a shocking discovery brings their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together and the forces that tear them apart. Only through the poetry they share are they able to speak the truth that is in their hearts and imagine a future where love is cause for celebration, not regret.”
“Olivia Kaspen has just discovered that her ex-boyfriend, Caleb Drake, has lost his memory. With an already lousy reputation for taking advantage of situations, Olivia must decide how far she is willing to go to get Caleb back. Wrestling to keep her true identity and their sordid past under wraps, Olivia’s greatest obstacle is Caleb’s wicked, new girlfriend; Leah Smith.
It is a race to the finish as these two vipers engage in a vicious tug of war to possess a man who no longer remembers them. But soon enough Olivia must face the consequences of her lies, and in the process discover that sometimes love falls short of redemption.”
“As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.
But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah’s universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other “bunheads” in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?”
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
“Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.
Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.”
What titles did I miss that you’ve read and would recommend? (Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a book is YA or NA.) I’d really like to read one set post-uni, around the 22+ age, anyone know of a good one?